* Jonny Wilkinson was appointed on Monday as captain of the England rugby union team for next month's international matches against Canada, South Africa and Australia, writes Huw Richards. The 25-year-old Newcastle outside-half, named by acting head coach Andy Robinson, will replace Lawrence Dallaglio, who retired in August.

While the appointment is initially only for the autumn matches, Robinson has previously signalled his intention to seek a captain capable of taking England to their World Cup defence in France in 2007.

As the world's youngest veteran, Wilkinson has been an international since he was 18, has 52 caps, is England's all-time record points scorer and (just in case anyone has forgotten) kicked the winning points when England won the World Cup last year.

For Robinson, his unique combination of youthfulness with experience and authority, proved irresistible. Nor were England overburdened with alternatives. Phil Vickery, the strongest likely rival, has yet to return from injury. Richard Hill, the strongest short-term alternative, was carried off playing for Saracens at the weekend. Other potential runners are unsure of their place in the team.

Yet the decision will not have been an easy one. Wilkinson has played only five Zurich Premiership matches after returning from the shoulder injury that ruled him out for all but 53 minutes of the last domestic season.

His performances so far have been competent and efficient but he has inevitably lacked sharpness. While his role as England's playmaker requires tactical nous, the demands of playing outside-half and kicking goals are enormous even without the further burden of captaincy.

How he copes with those concerns will be revealed on November 13 when England take on Canada at Twickenham.

* Michael Owen will be fit to face Wales on Saturday despite suffering an injury playing for Real Madrid on Sunday, England coach Sven-Göran Eriksson said on Monday.

Owen was substituted after 52 minutes in the loss to Deportivo, but Eriksson said Owen had only suffered a "minor injury" from which he would recover. "Our feeling at the moment is that it should only keep him out of one or two training sessions so we expect him to be available for selection," he said.

Wayne Rooney's return to fitness combined with Jermain Defoe's impressive start to the season means Eriksson is not short of options upfront and the manager admitted last week that Owen's place was not guaranteed.

* Defoe may be moving closer to an England start but his presence in the Tottenham team may be in jeopardy after the FA charged team-mate Jamie Redknapp with serious foul play for a nasty tackle on Everton's Tim Cahill on Saturday.

Redknapp faces being handed a three-match ban following the charge and the FA could also come under pressure to apply the same criteria to Defoe, who committed an equally bad foul on David Weir in the same match.

Both players were only booked for their fouls. But the FA signalled it was keen to ensure that players who they think deserve red cards actually serve the punishment.

* Steve Wigley is being allowed to stay as Southampton's coach, although he lacks a coaching certificate required by the Premier League.

The Premier League said on Monday that Wigley, who replaced Paul Sturrock two months ago, had until August 2005 to complete his "Uefa Pro Diploma" licence, which is required of managers at top English clubs. Other clubs, including Fulham and Leeds, were given similar leeway in the past few years.

* Paula Radcliffe will return to competition for the first time next month since limping out of both the marathon and the 10,000m at the Athens Olympics.

Radcliffe will defend her title in London's annual 10km road race on November 8. She won last year's event in 30 minutes, 50 seconds. "After Athens it will be a real joy to come back to the capital and run again for the first time with all the support that London gives," Radcliffe said. "I have received some amazing support there in the past."

* The frantic race for the jockeys' title twisted further Frankie Dettori's way on Monday when the Italian scored a double at Windsor as Kieren Fallon sat out a one-day ban.

Dettori's 14/1 double extended his lead to eight in the championship. But all could not be lost for Fallon yet. Dettori is due to fly to Texas for the Breeder's Cup on October 29 and to Australia for the Melbourne Cup in November. He will miss seven days of British racing while on his travels giving champion Fallon a golden opportunity to overhaul his rival.

If Dettori has a ride in the Breeder's Cup Classic he will face the formidable task of overcoming new European hero Bago, narrow winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Sunday. Bago was on Monday given the go-ahead to take part in the Classic by his owners, the Niarchos family, as long as he recovers from his weekend exertions.

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